Nafziger, Christian (1776/78-1836)

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Christian Nafziger was born in 1778 (sometimes given as 1776) to Christian Nafziger and Magdalena Gungerich near Siebeldingen in the Palatinate, Germany. Christian married Maria, the daughter of Katharina (Imhof) Stalter, widow of Heinrich, around 1810. Three sons and two daughters were born to them during the next ten years.

Nafziger left his family in the district of Ebersberg, east of Munich late in 1821 to seek a better life for his family and other Amish Mennonites of like faith. He made his way on foot to Amsterdam where a member of the Mennonite van Eeghen family gave him a voucher on a ship sailing for New Orleans. He made his way along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers to Pennsylvania. In Lancaster he was advised to go to Canada where land was cheaper.

By August of 1822, Nafziger was in Waterloo where the Mennonites gave him a warm reception and accompanied him to contact the government and Lieutenant-Governor Sir Peregrine Maitland. Maitland outlined the steps needed for settlement and gave him letters to deliver to the Colonial Office in London, England. Nafziger returned to Bavaria via Pennsylvania and London. By the time he arrived back in Bavaria early in 1823, Nafziger and the Mennonites of Waterloo had set in motion the possibility of settlement of a substantial group of Amish Mennonites in the undeveloped township of Wilmot.

Christian Nafziger and his family arrived in Canada late in 1826, receiving financial aid from the Mennonites in Waterloo. Christian chose Lot 6, North Bleam's Road, began carving a home for himself and his family out of the forest, and became active in assisting new settlers to find locations. The lots comprised 200 acres. The roads had been surveyed, but it was the duty of the settlers to clear the roadways. After clearing a specified number of acres and building a substantial dwelling, and after a seven-year residence in the country, the settlers were to receive patents for the front 50 acres with the option to purchase the remaining 150 acres.

There was a great deal of consternation among the settlers when, in the summer of 1828, they learned that the rear 150 acres of their farms had been deeded to King's College (the forerunner of the University of Toronto) as an endowment. The settlers were to be granted the option of purchasing the land from the College but at almost double the price they were expecting to pay. Christian Nafziger and his fellow settlers immediately protested. After much correspondence, the settlers eventually reached an agreement with the government and the university, but not without a great deal of dissatisfaction. Some of the settlers were unhappy with the choice Christian had made for the settlement site and left for Ohio.

Christian Nafziger addressed several petitions to the government requesting a deed to his 200-acre lot for services rendered, but he died 5 May 1836, having received title only to the front 50 acres, the same as any other settler who had arrived before 1830. His wife had preceded him in death four years earlier. Except for the front 50 acres of Christian's lot, the family was left landless at the time of his death. The oldest son, Christian, remained in Canada, leaving descendants through a daughter. The other children or grandchildren all migrated to the U.S.A. The Nafzigers living in Ontario in the 21st century are descendents of Samuel Nafziger, a later immigrant from France.

There is no doubt that Christian Nafziger played a key role in shaping the settlement in Wilmot Township. Without his leadership the Amish immigrants may have gone elsewhere.


Roth, Lorraine. The Amish and Their Neighbours, The German Block, Wilmot Township, 1822-1860. Waterloo, ON: Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario, 1998.

Roth, Lorraine. "Christian Nafziger, Immigrant Leader (1776/78-1836)." Unpublished paper, 1998.

Author(s) Lorraine Roth
Date Published April 2002

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MLA style

Roth, Lorraine. "Nafziger, Christian (1776/78-1836)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. April 2002. Web. 24 Jun 2021.,_Christian_(1776/78-1836)&oldid=113541.

APA style

Roth, Lorraine. (April 2002). Nafziger, Christian (1776/78-1836). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 June 2021, from,_Christian_(1776/78-1836)&oldid=113541.

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